Saturday 10 December 2016

EXCLUSIVE: HSE launches review of Irish charity following allegations of 'financial irregularities'

Ataxia Ireland boss confirms they are cooperating with review

Cathal McMahon

Published 29/09/2016 | 20:00

Chief Executive of Ataxia Ireland Barbara Flynn (pictured inset)
Chief Executive of Ataxia Ireland Barbara Flynn (pictured inset)
Ataxia Ireland logo

A HSE review has been launched into an Irish charity following allegations of financial irregularities and management issues.

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Independent.ie can reveal that a complaint was lodged about Ataxia Ireland with the Health Service Executive (HSE) in June by former member.

The charity, which campaigns for those suffering with degenerative neurological condition Friedreich's Ataxia, is based in Leopardstown, South Dublin and has been operating for over 30 years.

A former member, who suffers with the condition, explained that he became concerned about a number of issues.

The member, who asked not to be named, told Independent.ie: “Initially what bothered me was that I noticed that a lot of good people, volunteers that had supported the charity for many years were leaving including an entire Management Committee.

“I spoke to a number of people and I became concerned about the management of the charity. A number of issues were also raised in relation to the finances at the charity.

Ataxia Ireland logo
Ataxia Ireland logo

“The members are doing a massive amount of fundraising for this charity and it is my belief that members are not seeing this money.

"I took the decision to make an official complaint last May and it is now my hope that this will be investigated in full."

It is understood that one of the complaints raised relates to the alleged payments of sitting committee members - something that is not permitted by the charities regulator.

Concerns have also been raised after several members of the charity's voluntary committee resigned in a short period of time.

A number of complaints have also been made about the management of the charity.

In a statement, released this week, the HSE confirmed that a review is underway.

A spokeswoman said: “The HSE can confirm that a complaint has been received in relation to Ataxia Ireland. Following receipt of the complaint, clarification on a number of issues was sought and subsequently received. A meeting was held with Ataxia Ireland during which the complaint was discussed along with a number of other issues.

“Ataxia Ireland confirmed at the meeting that the organisation will fully co-operate with any HSE review.”

Barbara Flynn, the Chief Executive of Ataxia Ireland, was asked for a response to the allegations at her offices in Leopardstown this week.

Ms Flynn, the daughter of the charity's founders, declined to comment but later sent a statement to Independent.ie.

She wrote: “Ataxia Ireland CLG can confirm that a review is ongoing as part of a HSE review of S39 agencies.

“A complaint about us was also received by the HSE who raised this matter with us at our review meeting. We have provided clarification and confirm that Ataxia Ireland is cooperating fully with the HSE review.

“As the review is ongoing, the Charity cannot comment further however, on completion of the aforementioned review, Ataxia Ireland CLG would be available to comment.”

A spokesperson for the Charities Regulator said: "The regulator does not speculate or comment on any concerns which may have been raised with our office, as to do so could prejudice any potential future investigations or legal proceedings."

Friedreichs Ataxia is a genetic and progressive disorder of the central nervous system which usually manifests itself in children between the ages of six and sixteen years.

However, in some instances the onset for Friedreichs and other Genetic Ataxias can be much later.

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